Phone a Friend

I was deep in a script and I needed some kind of transition scene.

Call me delusional but I finished my writing day feeling like a boss, and I’m going to hold on to that.



I have a number of reputations to uphold, among them a prodigious appetite for saturated fats. Cheesecake and doughnuts have been a staple for a large part of my life, and I can only presume that obesity and diabetes have been kept at bay only by the love of a good woman and semi-regular exercise.

A recent research trip presented my hungry eye with ‘cream choc donut[s]’, a big-city steal at $2.50 per. Seeing my longing look at it, The Lovely Wife suggested I stop being dramatic and just buy it. The thing was, I knew that just two mouthfuls of one of those triple-threats would be enough — but since a partly-eaten doughnut is anathema to any self-respecting Samoan, I would have to eat the rest of it.

I looked at her and sadly told her that those days were over lied that I was not in the mood for doughnuts. She still saw my final melancholic look at those doughnuts, but being the lovely wife that she is, she said nothing.

The last few years, the consumption of such delicacies has resulted in less of the comforting ‘good sick‘, and more of the just plain sick feeling. I suppose it was the tail end of a longer transition period* where, once-upon-a-takeaways, I could eat whatever I wanted, and nowadays I mostly/sometimes/less-often-than-I-really-should watch what I eat.

I’ve passed a gastronomical milestone in this life. It’s just a sign of age. A constant of life is change, and change is inevitable.

Time, perhaps, for a new food-oriented reputation.

* The first sign would’ve been when The Boy, then eight years old, began to out-eat me at most meals.



The Brown Dog (formerly known as The Puppy) defies her owners’ attempts to stop her smelling up the furniture.

As the posts around here have gotten less frequent and more intermittent, the writing process proper has certainly ramped up. It’s partly the impending end-of-year and its attendant deadlines (we’re in the third quarter of 2018 already, omfg) and partly because I have projects where I’m not the main (and sometimes sole) driver.

Oh how I wish I could brag and boast but I’m a superstitious type. Suffice it to say that things are a bit busy and that I have not totally forsaken you.

I suppose this is just confirmation that posts here will continue to be infrequent and occasional. But I am thinking of you.


KINGSWOOD: postponed

The Writer with the family stationwagon, Wainuiomata, 1982. (Photo courtesy Marie Mamea-Crawford.)

I’m of two minds when it comes to this blog and publicity. Is this a good-news-only blog where I celebrate the joy and wonders of writing and production? Or is this a all’s-fair-in-love-and-war blog where, in addition to the celebrating, etc, above, I also lay out the failures and disappointments?

Precedent suggests the latter.

Whilst doing publicity for the Still Life With Chickens machine, I mentioned looking forward to the premiere of Kingswood this September at BATS Theatre in Wellington. It’s been in progress for two years, it had built up some momentum in the last couple of months, and my fellow creative principals and I were at various levels of quiet excitement (hey, we’re all Kiwi males so high-testosterone-I’M-PUMPED-type excitement was never going to happen).

Having put it out there on the æther, we’ve just had to cancel that premiere season.

Life happens. Life goes on. And there will always be other productions.

(The pedants among you are wondering why this post is titled ‘postponed’ but the post itself has the word ‘cancelled’. 1. I didn’t officially announce the season on the blog in the first place so, in the bigger scheme of D F Mamea things, as a project, its premiere is merely delayed. 2. This is my blog, so there.)


Home Alone

Wellington by night.

I suppose it’s an annual pilgrimage: as Matariki descends upon this lush nation, I take myself to my hometoon of Wellington for a bit of colour and culture. The Lovely Wife didn’t accompany me this year as our schedules didn’t work out (and we’d been down this way only a few weeks earlier).

This time around I:

  • saw Kia Mau Festival highlights Taki Rua’s He Kura e Huna Ana and the premiere season of Deer Woman;
  • attended a Playwrights Hui where I —
    • had the pleasure of meeting Tara Beagan (Canada), Jorjia Gillis (Australia), Lily Shearer (Australia), Mitch Tawhi Thomas (Wellington), and Jason Te Mete (Auckland);
    • and caught up with Ali Foa’i, Mīria George, Natano Keni, Hone Kouka, Jamie McCaskill, and Ilbijerri’s Rachel Maza;
  • and, outside Kia Mau events, met with various Wellington residents about one thing or another.

Unlike last year there was no dining at the usual, nor a Mamea family catch-up, but it was a productive trip, and my hometown is always always fun to visit.


FLASHBACK: Roughing It

From November 2007 (lightly edited):

Let’s say I have to write a scene with corporate suits speaking corporate-speak. I want it to be fluid – a language that’s appropriate to the characters but still accessible to the audience. Minutes and minutes of talking heads yakking at each other – but interesting. Touchstones are Oliver Stone‘s JFK, the ‘law’ halves of Law & Order episodes, and any episode in Aaron Sorkin‘s West Wing.

My first instinct is to just write the scene and get it over with. This can be difficult if I’ve little or no idea how suits talk to each other. In the past it’s become a war of attrition: the objective of narrative-propelling talking heads can be forgotten in a distressing and dispiriting fug of expository dialogue, with an end-result of dropping the scene completely, followed by a period of self-loathsome whimpering in The Lovely Wife‘s compassionate and patient arms.

I know what I want. I can almost taste the scene. The problem is writing what I want even though I have no idea what happens.

The solution is awfully simple: take tiny steps. Write what I know. Then write it again. Repeat until well done.

I’ve noticed a pattern to how some of these scenes take shape. Below are the stages of development that a scene can undergo:
–  the nugget,
–  the description,
–  as good a start as any, and
–  a work draft.

The nugget


TWO SUITS cook up a plan.

The description


BOUFFANT and COIFFURE walk and talk about BALDY’s imminent death.

As good a start as any


JAMESON RODERICK and TREVOR ALMOND prowl the open-plan offices and corridors.


[PLACE HOLDER: confident growls of world domination]


[PLACE-HOLDER: squeaky noises of dissension]


[PLACE HOLDER: growly grunts of alpha-maleness]

A work draft


RODERICK JAMESON and TREVOR ALMOND walk and talk as paralegals, interns and secretaries work into the night.


Did -. Did you –

His more athletic companion glares at him as a BEAVER-LIKE INTERN cuts in:


Sorry to interrupt, Mr Jameson, but Sir Templar asked me to give you this.

Roderick relieves him of an UNMARKED ENVELOPE and the intern disappears.


(off envelope)

Is -. Is that –

Roderick steers his cream-doughnut-loving toady towards –


– where Almond slips out of his grip and takes a trembling breath:


I -, I’ve changed my mind.

They stare at each other for a long beat. Almond, of course, looks away first.


It’s too late.

(off Almond)

It is done.

OUT ON Almond: there’s no turning back now.

As you can see, each draft gains more depth and colour and tone – I’m building on what’s gone before and with each iteration I’m that much closer to what I want. What I wanted in the first place and what I end up writing may be two very different things but that’s for another post. What matters is that I’ve now got something to really work with.

Another seventy-or-so more scenes to go.


STILL LIFE WITH CHICKENS: final week in Wellington

I think I have two new favourite words: ‘sold out’.

The Wellington season, despite some early nerves, has gone very nicely with good houses and great reviews from Theatreview and The Theatre Times.

Speaking of nerves, the extended Mamea aiga attended the opening night: our Stern but Loving ParentsAwesome Sister and her girls, and Staunch Bro and his family. They said they enjoyed the show and I can’t ask for more than that. The Lovely Wife was not called on to take one for her husband so it was quite the lovefest and very validating for this writer.

I’m going to leave further Still Life updates to Facebook and Twitter. I’ve other projects that need progressing, and much as I like to shuck and jive away from work, deadlines loom.


STILL LIFE WITH CHICKENS: final approach to Wellington premiere

It’s all “Still Life”-this and “Still Life”-that, some of you are carping. I can’t help it. It’s a big thing for me.

It’s a week out from the show’s Wellington premiere and my anxiety has increased considerably.

Why the nerves, you may ask, when 1). box office returns must be pretty good, and 2). touring is the fun part of being a playwright. Yeah. Well. I’m taking my mother to the premiere next Wednesday and I’m experiencing a very familiar feeling like I’ve done something very bad and I’m going to have to own up to it.

Mrs Mamea with one of her brood, 2012. (Photo credit: Christina Mamea.)

It’ll be fine, my siblings have been telling me, our mother’s gonna loooove it. But I recognise the tone in their voices: the kind of tone where they know I’ve done something wrong, too, and I’m going to have to take my lumps, and boy are they glad they’re not me.

I shall hold onto a couple of thoughts over the coming week: how Simon Wilson describes the play best as a hymn to [my] mother; and how The Lovely Wife will be on my arm at the premiere where, if necessary, I can use her as a shield.


STILL LIFE WITH CHICKENS: on the Manawatū Plains

Image supplied to

I’ve been laggardly with this blog: Still Life With Chickens has already had three performances at Centrepoint Theatre in Palmerston North.

Its Manawatū stopover has been described as “beautiful“, “poignant” and “sweet” which is pretty, uh, sweet.

The Centrepoint season runs until this Sunday 15 April, after which it continues southward — whereupon the Greater Mamea Aiga will see it.

I’m feeling a little trepidatious about that development.